In a dramatic turn of events at Kinshasa Airport, frustration reached its peak as passengers of a Brussels Airlines Airbus A330 attempted to storm the aircraft following a series of delays, technical issues, and a two-day wait. The incident unfolded against the backdrop of the airline’s plans for expansion and growth in the African market.
Delayed Departure and Technical Issues
Flight SN358, scheduled to depart from Kinshasa to Brussels, was plagued by problems from the outset. With 230 passengers on board the Airbus A330-300 (registration OO-SFF), the flight was set to take off on Friday, September 15, at 8:50 p.m. local time. However, due to a technical problem with one of the engines, the nearly 13-year-old aircraft’s departure had to be aborted, resulting in the flight’s cancellation.
A Second Attempt Foiled
Hopes were high as a new departure time was set for Saturday at around 11:00 p.m. local time. However, the aircraft’s technical gremlins struck again, forcing the flight to be canceled once more. This repeated setback was enough to push the patience of the stranded passengers to its limits.
Approximately 70 frustrated passengers took matters into their own hands and stormed onto the tarmac in a bid to gain access to the grounded Airbus A330. Security personnel had to intervene swiftly to protect the crew from potential attacks and deter the angry crowd from their audacious plan. After roughly 45 minutes of tension and chaos, the passengers reluctantly returned to the airport terminal.
Following the cancellation of the Brussels Airlines flight for the 2nd day in a row since Friday 15/09, passengers stormed the tarmac of N'djili Intl. Airport (FZAA), Kinshasa with the aim of demonstration. The station manager and the crew members are locked in the parked plane. pic.twitter.com/ew1o2S5ZUL
— FL360aero (@fl360aero) September 17, 2023
Outcry and Allegations
Pictures and videos shared on social media depicted exhausted and exasperated passengers. Some expressed their grievances, stating, “We have waited 48 hours and are exhausted and afraid.” The primary accusation leveled against the airline was the alleged lack of assistance and support during the prolonged delay. Passengers claimed that there was no provision of food or drinks, and they felt neglected and mistreated.
Brussels Airlines refuted the allegations, stating that passengers had been cared for throughout the ordeal. According to a spokesperson, passengers who did not reside in the Democratic Republic of Congo were provided with hotel accommodations, and their meal expenses were covered. Despite the turbulent situation, the airline issued an apology for any inconvenience caused.
On the third attempt, the Brussels Airlines A330 took off for Brussels on Sunday night, embarking on a seven-and-a-half-hour journey that ultimately landed safely in Belgium. However, FlightRadar24 data indicated that all flights using the aircraft registration OO-SFF were canceled for the upcoming days.